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Marquis Philips, 2004 Shiraz 9

Date: Fri, Jul 20, 2007 Wine Tasting

Very dark, inky purple. Lots of dark fruits, berries, raisin and vanilla. Deeply extracted. Although this wine was made with top quality fruit, it's heat and oak can be overpowering. Not a subtle wine. Certainly fun and enjoyable, though. I have had this wine on several occasions, but I found a perfect pairing for it last night - consumed from a plastic cup at the movie theater while enjoying a tub of popcorn. 88 points. find it

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Trespass Vineyard, Cabernet Franc

Date: Tue, Jul 17, 2007 Wine Tasting

While I was visiting Napa Valley a couple of years ago, my friend Geordie and I scheduled a day of tastings on Spring Mountain. This was much less of a commute for Geordie as he and his wife live at the top of Spring Mountain, almost directly on the Napa and Sonoma county line. I know.... I feel bad for them, too. The best tasting of the day went to Paloma Vineyards, which is owned and managed by Barb and Jim Richards. I'll write about them in a future post.

The worst tasting went to Philip Togni Vineyard where we were led around by the abrasive and arrogant Brigitta Togni, who was about as hospitable as one of Michael Vick's dogs. Before the tour and tasting each guest was interrogated by Brigitta in order to determine whether or not they were qualified to taste Togni's wines. We were also told how wonderful their wines are and that most other winemakers in the Napa Valley don't really know what they are doing. Apparently, none of us passed the interrogation because at the end of the tour we were each given a taste of their second label, Tanbark Hill - from a bottle which had been opened nine days earlier. Thanks for coming.

Overall, we had a great day. Our last tasting was at Pride Mountain Vineyards, and it was at Pride where I learned about Trespass Vineyard. I don't recommend tasting at Pride as their tasting room is more of a gift shop than a tasting room. Although their Reserve Cabernet is usually outstanding, the rest of their portfolio is good, but overpriced. They unfortunately do not even pour the Reserve Cab in their tasting room either, which is really the reason you just drove twenty-five minutes up the mountain. Thanks for coming.

The tasting room associate at Pride told me about a small, family-run winery at the base of the mountain called Trespass Vineyard, which produces about 600 cases per year of nice Cabernet Sauvignon. I called Trespass to schedule a tasting for the following day, and the owners, Donny and Dana Gallagher, were more than happy to accommodate us.

When the Gallaghers acquired their vineyard it was a small, undeveloped, five acre out lot at the end of a cul-de-sac sandwiched between Spottswoode Winery and a residential development. They immediately fell in love with the piece, and decided to fulfill their dream of starting their own label. There is no winery on the site, but the Gallaghers have built a small, stone patio in the middle of their vineyard for the purpose of hosting tastings and sharing their special property with others. The views from the base of the mountain are breathtaking, and on many evenings the Gallaghers find neighbors sitting on the patio in their vineyard enjoying a beautiful St. Helena sunset. The name Trespass is tongue-in-cheek as they happily invite others to enjoy their land.
The Gallaghers brought along a bottle of their 2002 Cabernet Franc to the tasting and offered it to us before we tasted the Cabernet Sauvignon. I immediately fell in love with this wine. I had not been very impressed with Napa Cabernet Francs up to this point, but Trespass gets it right. It is certainly not an "Old World" style Cab Franc with earthy, gamey notes and fierce tannins. On the contrary, St. Helena's warm climate and volcanic soils seem to coax all of the inviting, hedonistic characteristics of the grape to the forefront while leaving less desirable herbal properties behind. They had initially planted the Franc to blend with the Sauvignon, but realized during production that they had a "stand alone Cab Franc," and decided to bottle it separately.

I enjoyed the two vintages of Trespass Cabernet Sauvignon we tasted as well, but the Cabernet Franc is a unique and delicious wine not to be missed. I also highly recommend scheduling a tasting of Trespass with the Gallaghers if you are ever in the Napa Valley. It is an off the beaten path experience with great wine, great people, and great scenery that you won't soon forget.

Winery: Trespass Vineyard
Wine : 2002 Cabernet Franc
Winemaker: Charles Hendricks
Estimated Cost: $40 (find it)

Tasting Notes: Deep ruby/purple to the rim. Medium body and with a pretty nose. Gobs of blueberry, blackberry and Asian spice wrapped around a core of seamless, mouth filling tannins. Great, lingering finish. 93 points.

Winery: Trespass Vineyard
Wine: 2003 Cabernet Franc
Winemaker: Kirk Venge
Estimated Cost: $40 (find it)

Tasting Notes: Similar to the '02, but where the former can be popped and poured this one needs a few hours in the decanter to open up. A bit more restrained than the '02, which is typical for the vintage, this wine provides plenty of hedonistic, blue fruit and firm structure. The wine improves immensely as it sits in the glass. 91 points.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Trespass Vineyard, Cabernet Franc

Date: Tue, Jul 17, 2007 Wine Tasting

While I was visiting Napa Valley a couple of years ago, my friend Geordie and I scheduled a day of tastings on Spring Mountain. This was much less of a commute for Geordie as he and his wife live at the top of Spring Mountain, almost directly on the Napa and Sonoma county line. I know.... I feel bad for them, too. The best tasting of the day went to Paloma Vineyards, which is owned and managed by Barb and Jim Richards. I'll write about them in a future post.

The worst tasting went to Philip Togni Vineyard where we were led around by the abrasive and arrogant Brigitta Togni, who was about as hospitable as one of Michael Vick's dogs. Before the tour and tasting each guest was interrogated by Brigitta in order to determine whether or not they were qualified to taste Togni's wines. We were also told how wonderful their wines are and that most other winemakers in the Napa Valley don't really know what they are doing. Apparently, none of us passed the interrogation because at the end of the tour we were each given a taste of their second label, Tanbark Hill - from a bottle which had been opened nine days earlier. Thanks for coming.

Overall, we had a great day. Our last tasting was at Pride Mountain Vineyards, and it was at Pride where I learned about Trespass Vineyard. I don't recommend tasting at Pride as their tasting room is more of a gift shop than a tasting room. Although their Reserve Cabernet is usually outstanding, the rest of their portfolio is good, but overpriced. They unfortunately do not even pour the Reserve Cab in their tasting room either, which is really the reason you just drove twenty-five minutes up the mountain. Thanks for coming.

The tasting room associate at Pride told me about a small, family-run winery at the base of the mountain called Trespass Vineyard, which produces about 600 cases per year of nice Cabernet Sauvignon. I called Trespass to schedule a tasting for the following day, and the owners, Donny and Dana Gallagher, were more than happy to accommodate us.

When the Gallaghers acquired their vineyard it was a small, undeveloped, five acre out lot at the end of a cul-de-sac sandwiched between Spottswoode Winery and a residential development. They immediately fell in love with the piece, and decided to fulfill their dream of starting their own label. There is no winery on the site, but the Gallaghers have built a small, stone patio in the middle of their vineyard for the purpose of hosting tastings and sharing their special property with others. The views from the base of the mountain are breathtaking, and on many evenings the Gallaghers find neighbors sitting on the patio in their vineyard enjoying a beautiful St. Helena sunset. The name Trespass is tongue-in-cheek as they happily invite others to enjoy their land.
The Gallaghers brought along a bottle of their 2002 Cabernet Franc to the tasting and offered it to us before we tasted the Cabernet Sauvignon. I immediately fell in love with this wine. I had not been very impressed with Napa Cabernet Francs up to this point, but Trespass gets it right. It is certainly not an "Old World" style Cab Franc with earthy, gamey notes and fierce tannins. On the contrary, St. Helena's warm climate and volcanic soils seem to coax all of the inviting, hedonistic characteristics of the grape to the forefront while leaving less desirable herbal properties behind. They had initially planted the Franc to blend with the Sauvignon, but realized during production that they had a "stand alone Cab Franc," and decided to bottle it separately.

I enjoyed the two vintages of Trespass Cabernet Sauvignon we tasted as well, but the Cabernet Franc is a unique and delicious wine not to be missed. I also highly recommend scheduling a tasting of Trespass with the Gallaghers if you are ever in the Napa Valley. It is an off the beaten path experience with great wine, great people, and great scenery that you won't soon forget.

Winery: Trespass Vineyard
Wine : 2002 Cabernet Franc
Winemaker: Charles Hendricks
Estimated Cost: $40 (find it)

Tasting Notes: Deep ruby/purple to the rim. Medium body and with a pretty nose. Gobs of blueberry, blackberry and Asian spice wrapped around a core of seamless, mouth filling tannins. Great, lingering finish. 93 points.

Winery: Trespass Vineyard
Wine: 2003 Cabernet Franc
Winemaker: Kirk Venge
Estimated Cost: $40 (find it)

Tasting Notes: Similar to the '02, but where the former can be popped and poured this one needs a few hours in the decanter to open up. A bit more restrained than the '02, which is typical for the vintage, this wine provides plenty of hedonistic, blue fruit and firm structure. The wine improves immensely as it sits in the glass. 91 points.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Trespass Vineyard, Cabernet Franc

Date: Tue, Jul 17, 2007 Wine Tasting

While I was visiting Napa Valley a couple of years ago, my friend Geordie and I scheduled a day of tastings on Spring Mountain. This was much less of a commute for Geordie as he and his wife live at the top of Spring Mountain, almost directly on the Napa and Sonoma county line. I know.... I feel bad for them, too. The best tasting of the day went to Paloma Vineyards, which is owned and managed by Barb and Jim Richards. I'll write about them in a future post.

The worst tasting went to Philip Togni Vineyard where we were led around by the abrasive and arrogant Brigitta Togni, who was about as hospitable as one of Michael Vick's dogs. Before the tour and tasting each guest was interrogated by Brigitta in order to determine whether or not they were qualified to taste Togni's wines. We were also told how wonderful their wines are and that most other winemakers in the Napa Valley don't really know what they are doing. Apparently, none of us passed the interrogation because at the end of the tour we were each given a taste of their second label, Tanbark Hill - from a bottle which had been opened nine days earlier. Thanks for coming.

Overall, we had a great day. Our last tasting was at Pride Mountain Vineyards, and it was at Pride where I learned about Trespass Vineyard. I don't recommend tasting at Pride as their tasting room is more of a gift shop than a tasting room. Although their Reserve Cabernet is usually outstanding, the rest of their portfolio is good, but overpriced. They unfortunately do not even pour the Reserve Cab in their tasting room either, which is really the reason you just drove twenty-five minutes up the mountain. Thanks for coming.

The tasting room associate at Pride told me about a small, family-run winery at the base of the mountain called Trespass Vineyard, which produces about 600 cases per year of nice Cabernet Sauvignon. I called Trespass to schedule a tasting for the following day, and the owners, Donny and Dana Gallagher, were more than happy to accommodate us.

When the Gallaghers acquired their vineyard it was a small, undeveloped, five acre out lot at the end of a cul-de-sac sandwiched between Spottswoode Winery and a residential development. They immediately fell in love with the piece, and decided to fulfill their dream of starting their own label. There is no winery on the site, but the Gallaghers have built a small, stone patio in the middle of their vineyard for the purpose of hosting tastings and sharing their special property with others. The views from the base of the mountain are breathtaking, and on many evenings the Gallaghers find neighbors sitting on the patio in their vineyard enjoying a beautiful St. Helena sunset. The name Trespass is tongue-in-cheek as they happily invite others to enjoy their land.
The Gallaghers brought along a bottle of their 2002 Cabernet Franc to the tasting and offered it to us before we tasted the Cabernet Sauvignon. I immediately fell in love with this wine. I had not been very impressed with Napa Cabernet Francs up to this point, but Trespass gets it right. It is certainly not an "Old World" style Cab Franc with earthy, gamey notes and fierce tannins. On the contrary, St. Helena's warm climate and volcanic soils seem to coax all of the inviting, hedonistic characteristics of the grape to the forefront while leaving less desirable herbal properties behind. They had initially planted the Franc to blend with the Sauvignon, but realized during production that they had a "stand alone Cab Franc," and decided to bottle it separately.

I enjoyed the two vintages of Trespass Cabernet Sauvignon we tasted as well, but the Cabernet Franc is a unique and delicious wine not to be missed. I also highly recommend scheduling a tasting of Trespass with the Gallaghers if you are ever in the Napa Valley. It is an off the beaten path experience with great wine, great people, and great scenery that you won't soon forget.

Winery: Trespass Vineyard
Wine : 2002 Cabernet Franc
Winemaker: Charles Hendricks
Estimated Cost: $40 (find it)

Tasting Notes: Deep ruby/purple to the rim. Medium body and with a pretty nose. Gobs of blueberry, blackberry and Asian spice wrapped around a core of seamless, mouth filling tannins. Great, lingering finish. 93 points.

Winery: Trespass Vineyard
Wine: 2003 Cabernet Franc
Winemaker: Kirk Venge
Estimated Cost: $40 (find it)

Tasting Notes: Similar to the '02, but where the former can be popped and poured this one needs a few hours in the decanter to open up. A bit more restrained than the '02, which is typical for the vintage, this wine provides plenty of hedonistic, blue fruit and firm structure. The wine improves immensely as it sits in the glass. 91 points.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Seghesio Family Vineyard: Big Wines, Big Value

Date: Thu, Jul 5, 2007 Wine Tasting

Since our first child was about six months old my wife and I have been going out at least once a week for date night. Sometimes we go to the movies, sometimes (rarely) we'll go to the gym, but usually we'll go to a nice restaurant. Last night was date night, and we had a great bottle of wine with dinner. In fact, it was really great, and I was going to write about it today until I realized that it is Independence Day. The wine we had last night was a '96 Bordeaux, and no red blooded American writes about French wine on the Fourth of July. That would be akin to treason, no? I mean, if I were to write about French wine on Independence Day I might as well start wire tapping U.S. citizens and outing CIA agents!


Sorry folks, that ain't me. I'm a patriot, and it's U.S. wine your going to read about in this post, whether you like it or not. Actually, I do think you will like it, or I would not waste my time writing about it. The varietal, Zinfandel, is considered to be indigenous to the U.S., and is rarely grown outside of California. I love a good Zin for its attractive, fruit driven nature, which begs to be enjoyed sooner than later. Most winemakers working with Zinfandel are able to create ripe, round, rich, jammy wines, and are not hesitant about allowing the alcohol to rise above 15 or 16 percent. The wines tend to be bold, powerful and delicious, yet for the most part short lived due to their low acid and moderate tannins. Another interesting tidbit about Zin is that they are usually head pruned (as in the image to the left), which gives each Zinfandel vine an aura of individuality.

Not as highly sought after as Cabernet or other noble grapes, many Zinfandels are a tremendous value. There are several boutique producers whose Zins are nothing short of stunning, however, when I reach for a Zin it is usually because it is a great food wine. It pairs well with anything from burgers and brats to pasta or filet mignon. One of my "go to" Zins has always been Seghesio because even their entry level wine is usually very enjoyable, and representative of the varietal. Many red wines at this price point are so manipulated and blended with other varietals that they show no varietal typicity whatsoever. The Seghesios have been producing wine in Sonoma County since 1895, and the winery is still a family owned operation today.

I tasted two Seghesio Zins today, and neither disappointed. The first was the 2005 Sonoma County Zinfandel, which can be found for about $16 a bottle, and the second was the 2005 Home Ranch Zinfandel, which can be found for about $32 a bottle. I preferred the Home Ranch Zin as it provided a broader, more sophisticated aroma, flavor profile and mouthfeel, but the Sonoma Zin was a close second.

Visually they are almost identical, with the Home Ranch being ever so slightly darker at the core. The nose on the Home Ranch is distinctly more attractive with notes of dark fruit and earth, where the Sonoma is very light and peppery. The Sonoma Zin is also lighter and brighter on the palate, leaning more toward red fruits, vanilla and pepper. It has a medium body, and it finishes nicely, although somewhat short. The Home Ranch is more complex and offers some dark fruits and earthy notes with well integrated oak and pepper. It is also richer, has more weight and a longer finish than the Sonoma. However, if I were going to purchase one or the other I would choose the Sonoma because it is such a good value. Seghesio produces approximately 30,000 cases of wine per year, so either of these wines can be found at better area wine shops.


Read Full Wine Blog Post

Seghesio Family Vineyard: Big Wines, Big Value

Date: Thu, Jul 5, 2007 Wine Tasting

Since our first child was about six months old my wife and I have been going out at least once a week for date night. Sometimes we go to the movies, sometimes (rarely) we'll go to the gym, but usually we'll go to a nice restaurant. Last night was date night, and we had a great bottle of wine with dinner. In fact, it was really great, and I was going to write about it today until I realized that it is Independence Day. The wine we had last night was a '96 Bordeaux, and no red blooded American writes about French wine on the Fourth of July. That would be akin to treason, no? I mean, if I were to write about French wine on Independence Day I might as well start wire tapping U.S. citizens and outing CIA agents!


Sorry folks, that ain't me. I'm a patriot, and it's U.S. wine your going to read about in this post, whether you like it or not. Actually, I do think you will like it, or I would not waste my time writing about it. The varietal, Zinfandel, is considered to be indigenous to the U.S., and is rarely grown outside of California. I love a good Zin for its attractive, fruit driven nature, which begs to be enjoyed sooner than later. Most winemakers working with Zinfandel are able to create ripe, round, rich, jammy wines, and are not hesitant about allowing the alcohol to rise above 15 or 16 percent. The wines tend to be bold, powerful and delicious, yet for the most part short lived due to their low acid and moderate tannins. Another interesting tidbit about Zin is that they are usually head pruned (as in the image to the left), which gives each Zinfandel vine an aura of individuality.

Not as highly sought after as Cabernet or other noble grapes, many Zinfandels are a tremendous value. There are several boutique producers whose Zins are nothing short of stunning, however, when I reach for a Zin it is usually because it is a great food wine. It pairs well with anything from burgers and brats to pasta or filet mignon. One of my "go to" Zins has always been Seghesio because even their entry level wine is usually very enjoyable, and representative of the varietal. Many red wines at this price point are so manipulated and blended with other varietals that they show no varietal typicity whatsoever. The Seghesios have been producing wine in Sonoma County since 1895, and the winery is still a family owned operation today.

I tasted two Seghesio Zins today, and neither disappointed. The first was the 2005 Sonoma County Zinfandel, which can be found for about $16 a bottle, and the second was the 2005 Home Ranch Zinfandel, which can be found for about $32 a bottle. I preferred the Home Ranch Zin as it provided a broader, more sophisticated aroma, flavor profile and mouthfeel, but the Sonoma Zin was a close second.

Visually they are almost identical, with the Home Ranch being ever so slightly darker at the core. The nose on the Home Ranch is distinctly more attractive with notes of dark fruit and earth, where the Sonoma is very light and peppery. The Sonoma Zin is also lighter and brighter on the palate, leaning more toward red fruits, vanilla and pepper. It has a medium body, and it finishes nicely, although somewhat short. The Home Ranch is more complex and offers some dark fruits and earthy notes with well integrated oak and pepper. It is also richer, has more weight and a longer finish than the Sonoma. However, if I were going to purchase one or the other I would choose the Sonoma because it is such a good value. Seghesio produces approximately 30,000 cases of wine per year, so either of these wines can be found at better area wine shops.


Read Full Wine Blog Post

Seghesio Family Vineyard: Big Wines, Big Value

Date: Thu, Jul 5, 2007 Wine Tasting

Since our first child was about six months old my wife and I have been going out at least once a week for date night. Sometimes we go to the movies, sometimes (rarely) we'll go to the gym, but usually we'll go to a nice restaurant. Last night was date night, and we had a great bottle of wine with dinner. In fact, it was really great, and I was going to write about it today until I realized that it is Independence Day. The wine we had last night was a '96 Bordeaux, and no red blooded American writes about French wine on the Fourth of July. That would be akin to treason, no? I mean, if I were to write about French wine on Independence Day I might as well start wire tapping U.S. citizens and outing CIA agents!


Sorry folks, that ain't me. I'm a patriot, and it's U.S. wine your going to read about in this post, whether you like it or not. Actually, I do think you will like it, or I would not waste my time writing about it. The varietal, Zinfandel, is considered to be indigenous to the U.S., and is rarely grown outside of California. I love a good Zin for its attractive, fruit driven nature, which begs to be enjoyed sooner than later. Most winemakers working with Zinfandel are able to create ripe, round, rich, jammy wines, and are not hesitant about allowing the alcohol to rise above 15 or 16 percent. The wines tend to be bold, powerful and delicious, yet for the most part short lived due to their low acid and moderate tannins. Another interesting tidbit about Zin is that they are usually head pruned (as in the image to the left), which gives each Zinfandel vine an aura of individuality.

Not as highly sought after as Cabernet or other noble grapes, many Zinfandels are a tremendous value. There are several boutique producers whose Zins are nothing short of stunning, however, when I reach for a Zin it is usually because it is a great food wine. It pairs well with anything from burgers and brats to pasta or filet mignon. One of my "go to" Zins has always been Seghesio because even their entry level wine is usually very enjoyable, and representative of the varietal. Many red wines at this price point are so manipulated and blended with other varietals that they show no varietal typicity whatsoever. The Seghesios have been producing wine in Sonoma County since 1895, and the winery is still a family owned operation today.

I tasted two Seghesio Zins today, and neither disappointed. The first was the 2005 Sonoma County Zinfandel, which can be found for about $16 a bottle, and the second was the 2005 Home Ranch Zinfandel, which can be found for about $32 a bottle. I preferred the Home Ranch Zin as it provided a broader, more sophisticated aroma, flavor profile and mouthfeel, but the Sonoma Zin was a close second.

Visually they are almost identical, with the Home Ranch being ever so slightly darker at the core. The nose on the Home Ranch is distinctly more attractive with notes of dark fruit and earth, where the Sonoma is very light and peppery. The Sonoma Zin is also lighter and brighter on the palate, leaning more toward red fruits, vanilla and pepper. It has a medium body, and it finishes nicely, although somewhat short. The Home Ranch is more complex and offers some dark fruits and earthy notes with well integrated oak and pepper. It is also richer, has more weight and a longer finish than the Sonoma. However, if I were going to purchase one or the other I would choose the Sonoma because it is such a good value. Seghesio produces approximately 30,000 cases of wine per year, so either of these wines can be found at better area wine shops.


Read Full Wine Blog Post

Far Niente Winery: Fast Cars and Fine Wine

Date: Wed, Jun 27, 2007 Wine Tasting

My father has been racing cars since the early Sixties. His first race car was a Fiat Abarth Zagato 750, which is affectionately known as a "Double Bubble." An example of the Double Bubble can be seen to the right. Since then he has seemingly had more race cars than I could list on this page. He still races to this day. In fact, as I write this he is at Mid-Ohio Raceway in Lexington, Ohio, racing his latest and perhaps his greatest car - Jo Bonnier's 1970 Lola T210, which can be seen below the Fiat. What does this have to do with wine, you ask? For me everything, because it was through his racing that I was introduced to Far Niente.

In spite of my obvious lack of mechanical ability and interest, I was my father's pit crew through most of my teenage years. It's not that I don't like racing or watching him race, but I don't enjoy working on cars, and I'm not very good at it either. I can remember at one race really doing a number on his Lotus 23B by severely over tightening the bolts securing the
intake manifold thereby cracking it. Oops. That same weekend I met Gil Nickel, who was the owner of Far Niente Winery. To the left, Gil can be seen racing his own Lotus 23B.

If my dad was bent because I trashed his engine he really didn't show it. He knew I wasn't very mechanically inclined, so I guess he figured he probably should not have had me anywhere near a rare, vintage race car in the first place. The intake manifold would need to be replaced, but it would survive the weekend. At the end of the day my dad said that one of his friends from California was pitted close by and we should stop in for a visit. That friend was Gil Nickel, and it didn't take long for him to become my new hero. He had shown up with a semi full of exotic race cars and a reefer truck full of Far Niente wines.


When we returned from the race I called The Wine Merchant outside of Baltimore, MD to see if they carried Far Niente wines. They said they did, so fake I.D. in hand I drove the few miles to the store intent on buying a half case. Upon seeing the price, my elation turned to dismay as I realized it would be many years before I could afford to buy a single bottle of Far Niente, let alone six.

I was fairly obsessed with Far Niente for quite some time after that, but my experience was mostly limited to the few times I could convince my father to order a bottle at a restaurant. Through racing, my father and Gil kept in touch over the years, and that connection has made Far Niente somewhat of a family favorite. A few years ago, however, we called Far Niente to schedule a tasting with Gil, and were shocked and saddened to learn that Gil had passed away after a battle with cancer. His passing is a great loss to the Napa Valley, but his passion for producing great wine lives on through his family.

Year after year Far Niente's commitment to excellence is on display in their current releases. I
tasted both the 2005 Chardonnay and the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon this week, and was not disappointed. It seems, however, that starting with the 2002 vintage Far Niente's Cabernets have been made in a more fruit driven, soft and oaky style, where in the past they shared more characteristics with their counterparts in Bordeaux. The recent vintages of Cabernet have all been very good, but it's not really the style I prefer.

Their recent Chardonnays have been outstanding, and 2005 is probably the best of the past five vintages. The '05 was aged on the lees for about nine months and it did not go through malolactic fermentation (ML). Far Niente was one of the first Napa Valley wineries to forgo ML when making chards, and it has helped in making their Chardonnay program a tremendous success.

I recommend scheduling a tour and tasting at Far Niente whenever visiting the area. Although the fee is now up to $50, they taste visitors on five different wines including their current releases and a couple of library wines as well. It's a beautiful winery, and the grounds and the caves are fantastic. Furthermore, the tour ends with a visit to the barn where some of Gil's cars are garaged. If you are into classic cars and great wine, Far Niente is not to be missed.

Winery: Far Niente
Wine: 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker: Stepahnie Putnam
Estimated Cost: $95

Tasting Notes: Dark ruby/purple to the rim. Notes of butterscotch, vanilla, blueberry, blackberry and blackcurrant. The oak is a bit too prominent for me at this stage of its development, and it seems to overwhelm some of the fruit. This should not be a long term problem for the wine, and probably is not a problem for most tasters. Although I like the flavors oak imparts on wine, I am sensitive to it and think that many wineries are a bit heavy handed with oak. The finish on this wine is nice and long, and the wine is seamless from front to back. 90 points.

Winery: Far Niente
Wine: 2005 Chardonnay
Winemaker: Stephanie Putnam
Estimated Cost: $42

Tasting Notes: Very Burgundian in style. Rich and mouthfilling, but not at all flabby. Notes of pears, apple, vanilla and beeswax. Oak is toasty and nicely integrated. Nice minerality as well. Although I am generally not a fan of California Chardonnay, Far Niente's 2005 is an exception to the rule. 93 points.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Far Niente Winery: Fast Cars and Fine Wine

Date: Wed, Jun 27, 2007 Wine Tasting

My father has been racing cars since the early Sixties. His first race car was a Fiat Abarth Zagato 750, which is affectionately known as a "Double Bubble." An example of the Double Bubble can be seen to the right. Since then he has seemingly had more race cars than I could list on this page. He still races to this day. In fact, as I write this he is at Mid-Ohio Raceway in Lexington, Ohio, racing his latest and perhaps his greatest car - Jo Bonnier's 1970 Lola T210, which can be seen below the Fiat. What does this have to do with wine, you ask? For me everything, because it was through his racing that I was introduced to Far Niente.

In spite of my obvious lack of mechanical ability and interest, I was my father's pit crew through most of my teenage years. It's not that I don't like racing or watching him race, but I don't enjoy working on cars, and I'm not very good at it either. I can remember at one race really doing a number on his Lotus 23B by severely over tightening the bolts securing the
intake manifold thereby cracking it. Oops. That same weekend I met Gil Nickel, who was the owner of Far Niente Winery. To the left, Gil can be seen racing his own Lotus 23B.

If my dad was bent because I trashed his engine he really didn't show it. He knew I wasn't very mechanically inclined, so I guess he figured he probably should not have had me anywhere near a rare, vintage race car in the first place. The intake manifold would need to be replaced, but it would survive the weekend. At the end of the day my dad said that one of his friends from California was pitted close by and we should stop in for a visit. That friend was Gil Nickel, and it didn't take long for him to become my new hero. He had shown up with a semi full of exotic race cars and a reefer truck full of Far Niente wines.


When we returned from the race I called The Wine Merchant outside of Baltimore, MD to see if they carried Far Niente wines. They said they did, so fake I.D. in hand I drove the few miles to the store intent on buying a half case. Upon seeing the price, my elation turned to dismay as I realized it would be many years before I could afford to buy a single bottle of Far Niente, let alone six.

I was fairly obsessed with Far Niente for quite some time after that, but my experience was mostly limited to the few times I could convince my father to order a bottle at a restaurant. Through racing, my father and Gil kept in touch over the years, and that connection has made Far Niente somewhat of a family favorite. A few years ago, however, we called Far Niente to schedule a tasting with Gil, and were shocked and saddened to learn that Gil had passed away after a battle with cancer. His passing is a great loss to the Napa Valley, but his passion for producing great wine lives on through his family.

Year after year Far Niente's commitment to excellence is on display in their current releases. I
tasted both the 2005 Chardonnay and the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon this week, and was not disappointed. It seems, however, that starting with the 2002 vintage Far Niente's Cabernets have been made in a more fruit driven, soft and oaky style, where in the past they shared more characteristics with their counterparts in Bordeaux. The recent vintages of Cabernet have all been very good, but it's not really the style I prefer.

Their recent Chardonnays have been outstanding, and 2005 is probably the best of the past five vintages. The '05 was aged on the lees for about nine months and it did not go through malolactic fermentation (ML). Far Niente was one of the first Napa Valley wineries to forgo ML when making chards, and it has helped in making their Chardonnay program a tremendous success.

I recommend scheduling a tour and tasting at Far Niente whenever visiting the area. Although the fee is now up to $50, they taste visitors on five different wines including their current releases and a couple of library wines as well. It's a beautiful winery, and the grounds and the caves are fantastic. Furthermore, the tour ends with a visit to the barn where some of Gil's cars are garaged. If you are into classic cars and great wine, Far Niente is not to be missed.

Winery: Far Niente
Wine: 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker: Stepahnie Putnam
Estimated Cost: $95

Tasting Notes: Dark ruby/purple to the rim. Notes of butterscotch, vanilla, blueberry, blackberry and blackcurrant. The oak is a bit too prominent for me at this stage of its development, and it seems to overwhelm some of the fruit. This should not be a long term problem for the wine, and probably is not a problem for most tasters. Although I like the flavors oak imparts on wine, I am sensitive to it and think that many wineries are a bit heavy handed with oak. The finish on this wine is nice and long, and the wine is seamless from front to back. 90 points.

Winery: Far Niente
Wine: 2005 Chardonnay
Winemaker: Stephanie Putnam
Estimated Cost: $42

Tasting Notes: Very Burgundian in style. Rich and mouthfilling, but not at all flabby. Notes of pears, apple, vanilla and beeswax. Oak is toasty and nicely integrated. Nice minerality as well. Although I am generally not a fan of California Chardonnay, Far Niente's 2005 is an exception to the rule. 93 points.

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Far Niente Winery: Fast Cars and Fine Wine

Date: Wed, Jun 27, 2007 Wine Tasting

My father has been racing cars since the early Sixties. His first race car was a Fiat Abarth Zagato 750, which is affectionately known as a "Double Bubble." An example of the Double Bubble can be seen to the right. Since then he has seemingly had more race cars than I could list on this page. He still races to this day. In fact, as I write this he is at Mid-Ohio Raceway in Lexington, Ohio, racing his latest and perhaps his greatest car - Jo Bonnier's 1970 Lola T210, which can be seen below the Fiat. What does this have to do with wine, you ask? For me everything, because it was through his racing that I was introduced to Far Niente.

In spite of my obvious lack of mechanical ability and interest, I was my father's pit crew through most of my teenage years. It's not that I don't like racing or watching him race, but I don't enjoy working on cars, and I'm not very good at it either. I can remember at one race really doing a number on his Lotus 23B by severely over tightening the bolts securing the
intake manifold thereby cracking it. Oops. That same weekend I met Gil Nickel, who was the owner of Far Niente Winery. To the left, Gil can be seen racing his own Lotus 23B.

If my dad was bent because I trashed his engine he really didn't show it. He knew I wasn't very mechanically inclined, so I guess he figured he probably should not have had me anywhere near a rare, vintage race car in the first place. The intake manifold would need to be replaced, but it would survive the weekend. At the end of the day my dad said that one of his friends from California was pitted close by and we should stop in for a visit. That friend was Gil Nickel, and it didn't take long for him to become my new hero. He had shown up with a semi full of exotic race cars and a reefer truck full of Far Niente wines.


When we returned from the race I called The Wine Merchant outside of Baltimore, MD to see if they carried Far Niente wines. They said they did, so fake I.D. in hand I drove the few miles to the store intent on buying a half case. Upon seeing the price, my elation turned to dismay as I realized it would be many years before I could afford to buy a single bottle of Far Niente, let alone six.

I was fairly obsessed with Far Niente for quite some time after that, but my experience was mostly limited to the few times I could convince my father to order a bottle at a restaurant. Through racing, my father and Gil kept in touch over the years, and that connection has made Far Niente somewhat of a family favorite. A few years ago, however, we called Far Niente to schedule a tasting with Gil, and were shocked and saddened to learn that Gil had passed away after a battle with cancer. His passing is a great loss to the Napa Valley, but his passion for producing great wine lives on through his family.

Year after year Far Niente's commitment to excellence is on display in their current releases. I
tasted both the 2005 Chardonnay and the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon this week, and was not disappointed. It seems, however, that starting with the 2002 vintage Far Niente's Cabernets have been made in a more fruit driven, soft and oaky style, where in the past they shared more characteristics with their counterparts in Bordeaux. The recent vintages of Cabernet have all been very good, but it's not really the style I prefer.

Their recent Chardonnays have been outstanding, and 2005 is probably the best of the past five vintages. The '05 was aged on the lees for about nine months and it did not go through malolactic fermentation (ML). Far Niente was one of the first Napa Valley wineries to forgo ML when making chards, and it has helped in making their Chardonnay program a tremendous success.

I recommend scheduling a tour and tasting at Far Niente whenever visiting the area. Although the fee is now up to $50, they taste visitors on five different wines including their current releases and a couple of library wines as well. It's a beautiful winery, and the grounds and the caves are fantastic. Furthermore, the tour ends with a visit to the barn where some of Gil's cars are garaged. If you are into classic cars and great wine, Far Niente is not to be missed.

Winery: Far Niente
Wine: 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker: Stepahnie Putnam
Estimated Cost: $95

Tasting Notes: Dark ruby/purple to the rim. Notes of butterscotch, vanilla, blueberry, blackberry and blackcurrant. The oak is a bit too prominent for me at this stage of its development, and it seems to overwhelm some of the fruit. This should not be a long term problem for the wine, and probably is not a problem for most tasters. Although I like the flavors oak imparts on wine, I am sensitive to it and think that many wineries are a bit heavy handed with oak. The finish on this wine is nice and long, and the wine is seamless from front to back. 90 points.

Winery: Far Niente
Wine: 2005 Chardonnay
Winemaker: Stephanie Putnam
Estimated Cost: $42

Tasting Notes: Very Burgundian in style. Rich and mouthfilling, but not at all flabby. Notes of pears, apple, vanilla and beeswax. Oak is toasty and nicely integrated. Nice minerality as well. Although I am generally not a fan of California Chardonnay, Far Niente's 2005 is an exception to the rule. 93 points.

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Spottswoode Winery, 2006 Sauvignon Blanc

Date: Wed, Jun 20, 2007 Wine Tasting

What better varietal to write about on the eve of the Summer Solstice than Sauvignon Blanc? I had originally intended to cover several red wines from a few of the lesser known communes of Bordeaux, but today turned out to be the first really hot day of the summer. It was one of those days during which you involuntarily keep waving your hand in front of your car's A/C vents to see if they are still working. As the day wore on and the mercury continued to ascend, my enthusiasm for tasting a flight of young, powerful, tannic reds waned. Eventually, I decided that only a maniac would want to taste young Bordeaux on such a day, and I am arguably no maniac. So, when I got home I didn't even bother with the rigmarole of scanning through my CellarTracker database to find what I already knew was the perfect wine for such a day - Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc.

Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery is best known for their perennially fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon, which is why a few years ago I scheduled a tasting at the winery. It is a leisurely and educational tour and tasting, and it is one of the better tours in the Napa Valley. Tastings without a tour are currently not an option. Only two tastings per week are scheduled, so if you are interested in visiting Spottswoode make reservations several weeks in advance. It was at this tasting I was introduced to Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc.

The tour began on the covered porch of their Victorian style house on Madrona St. in St. Helena, which has been converted into offices. I was eager to taste their current release Cabernet Sauvignon, which at the time was the epic 2001 vintage. As we waited for a few stragglers to show up, they poured each of us a glass of the 2004 Sauvignon Blanc to start with. Not thinking too much about it (because I was there to taste the Cab), I took a sip while chatting with some other guests, and was immediately blown away. Damn! That's some good Sauvignon Blanc, I said aloud. I didn't even know these guys made an SB! Soon, accolades from various other guests could be heard as well.

Just about that time the stragglers finally arrived and the tour began. The stragglers, by the way, had just come from visiting David Arthur Vineyards and were pretty shellacked. Apparently, their tour at David Arthur got a little out of hand, and they ended up doing a bunch of tequila shots with the tour guide. Did I mention that Spottswoode tours begin at 10:00 a.m.? Yikes! Actually, they were very nice people, but this tour must have seemed rather somber when compared with their first tour of the morning.

The tour ended with a poolside tasting of the Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, which was outstanding, however, I joined their mailing list for the Sauvignon Blanc. Like their Cabernet Sauvignon, you can bank on Spottswoode producing one of the best SB's in California year after year. I often serve this wine when we have guests on warm summer days. Regardless of their experience with SB, after their first taste of Spottswoode it seems they always ask what they are drinking and where they can buy it. This is a great summer wine and SB is a great food wine as well. Although the price is on the high end for Sauvignon Blanc, you certainly won't be suffering from buyer's remorse after your first taste. In fact, you'll probably be a little sad you didn't buy more.

Producer: Spottswoode Winery
Wine: 2006 Sauvignon Blanc
Winemakers: Rosemary Cakebread and Jennifer Williams
Estimated Cost: $34

Tasting Notes: Crisp and tropical. Straw colored with hints of grapefruit, melons, honeysuckle, peaches and vanilla. Nice weight for a Sauvignon Blanc, but still balanced with underlying minerality and acidity. Finshes long. Still early in its development, it should improve over the next several months and drink well through 2010.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Spottswoode Winery, 2006 Sauvignon Blanc

Date: Wed, Jun 20, 2007 Wine Tasting

What better varietal to write about on the eve of the Summer Solstice than Sauvignon Blanc? I had originally intended to cover several red wines from a few of the lesser known communes of Bordeaux, but today turned out to be the first really hot day of the summer. It was one of those days during which you involuntarily keep waving your hand in front of your car's A/C vents to see if they are still working. As the day wore on and the mercury continued to ascend, my enthusiasm for tasting a flight of young, powerful, tannic reds waned. Eventually, I decided that only a maniac would want to taste young Bordeaux on such a day, and I am arguably no maniac. So, when I got home I didn't even bother with the rigmarole of scanning through my CellarTracker database to find what I already knew was the perfect wine for such a day - Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc.

Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery is best known for their perennially fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon, which is why a few years ago I scheduled a tasting at the winery. It is a leisurely and educational tour and tasting, and it is one of the better tours in the Napa Valley. Tastings without a tour are currently not an option. Only two tastings per week are scheduled, so if you are interested in visiting Spottswoode make reservations several weeks in advance. It was at this tasting I was introduced to Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc.

The tour began on the covered porch of their Victorian style house on Madrona St. in St. Helena, which has been converted into offices. I was eager to taste their current release Cabernet Sauvignon, which at the time was the epic 2001 vintage. As we waited for a few stragglers to show up, they poured each of us a glass of the 2004 Sauvignon Blanc to start with. Not thinking too much about it (because I was there to taste the Cab), I took a sip while chatting with some other guests, and was immediately blown away. Damn! That's some good Sauvignon Blanc, I said aloud. I didn't even know these guys made an SB! Soon, accolades from various other guests could be heard as well.

Just about that time the stragglers finally arrived and the tour began. The stragglers, by the way, had just come from visiting David Arthur Vineyards and were pretty shellacked. Apparently, their tour at David Arthur got a little out of hand, and they ended up doing a bunch of tequila shots with the tour guide. Did I mention that Spottswoode tours begin at 10:00 a.m.? Yikes! Actually, they were very nice people, but this tour must have seemed rather somber when compared with their first tour of the morning.

The tour ended with a poolside tasting of the Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, which was outstanding, however, I joined their mailing list for the Sauvignon Blanc. Like their Cabernet Sauvignon, you can bank on Spottswoode producing one of the best SB's in California year after year. I often serve this wine when we have guests on warm summer days. Regardless of their experience with SB, after their first taste of Spottswoode it seems they always ask what they are drinking and where they can buy it. This is a great summer wine and SB is a great food wine as well. Although the price is on the high end for Sauvignon Blanc, you certainly won't be suffering from buyer's remorse after your first taste. In fact, you'll probably be a little sad you didn't buy more.

Producer: Spottswoode Winery
Wine: 2006 Sauvignon Blanc
Winemakers: Rosemary Cakebread and Jennifer Williams
Estimated Cost: $34

Tasting Notes: Crisp and tropical. Straw colored with hints of grapefruit, melons, honeysuckle, peaches and vanilla. Nice weight for a Sauvignon Blanc, but still balanced with underlying minerality and acidity. Finshes long. Still early in its development, it should improve over the next several months and drink well through 2010.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Spottswoode Winery, 2006 Sauvignon Blanc

Date: Wed, Jun 20, 2007 Wine Tasting

What better varietal to write about on the eve of the Summer Solstice than Sauvignon Blanc? I had originally intended to cover several red wines from a few of the lesser known communes of Bordeaux, but today turned out to be the first really hot day of the summer. It was one of those days during which you involuntarily keep waving your hand in front of your car's A/C vents to see if they are still working. As the day wore on and the mercury continued to ascend, my enthusiasm for tasting a flight of young, powerful, tannic reds waned. Eventually, I decided that only a maniac would want to taste young Bordeaux on such a day, and I am arguably no maniac. So, when I got home I didn't even bother with the rigmarole of scanning through my CellarTracker database to find what I already knew was the perfect wine for such a day - Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc.

Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery is best known for their perennially fantastic Cabernet Sauvignon, which is why a few years ago I scheduled a tasting at the winery. It is a leisurely and educational tour and tasting, and it is one of the better tours in the Napa Valley. Tastings without a tour are currently not an option. Only two tastings per week are scheduled, so if you are interested in visiting Spottswoode make reservations several weeks in advance. It was at this tasting I was introduced to Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc.

The tour began on the covered porch of their Victorian style house on Madrona St. in St. Helena, which has been converted into offices. I was eager to taste their current release Cabernet Sauvignon, which at the time was the epic 2001 vintage. As we waited for a few stragglers to show up, they poured each of us a glass of the 2004 Sauvignon Blanc to start with. Not thinking too much about it (because I was there to taste the Cab), I took a sip while chatting with some other guests, and was immediately blown away. Damn! That's some good Sauvignon Blanc, I said aloud. I didn't even know these guys made an SB! Soon, accolades from various other guests could be heard as well.

Just about that time the stragglers finally arrived and the tour began. The stragglers, by the way, had just come from visiting David Arthur Vineyards and were pretty shellacked. Apparently, their tour at David Arthur got a little out of hand, and they ended up doing a bunch of tequila shots with the tour guide. Did I mention that Spottswoode tours begin at 10:00 a.m.? Yikes! Actually, they were very nice people, but this tour must have seemed rather somber when compared with their first tour of the morning.

The tour ended with a poolside tasting of the Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, which was outstanding, however, I joined their mailing list for the Sauvignon Blanc. Like their Cabernet Sauvignon, you can bank on Spottswoode producing one of the best SB's in California year after year. I often serve this wine when we have guests on warm summer days. Regardless of their experience with SB, after their first taste of Spottswoode it seems they always ask what they are drinking and where they can buy it. This is a great summer wine and SB is a great food wine as well. Although the price is on the high end for Sauvignon Blanc, you certainly won't be suffering from buyer's remorse after your first taste. In fact, you'll probably be a little sad you didn't buy more.

Producer: Spottswoode Winery
Wine: 2006 Sauvignon Blanc
Winemakers: Rosemary Cakebread and Jennifer Williams
Estimated Cost: $34

Tasting Notes: Crisp and tropical. Straw colored with hints of grapefruit, melons, honeysuckle, peaches and vanilla. Nice weight for a Sauvignon Blanc, but still balanced with underlying minerality and acidity. Finshes long. Still early in its development, it should improve over the next several months and drink well through 2010.

Read Full Wine Blog Post

Relic Wines, 2004 Alder Springs Syrah

Date: Tue, Jun 12, 2007 Wine Tasting



Winemakers looking to make great Syrah should take a page out of Relic Wines owner/winemaker Mike Hirby's book. Furthermore, readers traveling to the Napa Valley should try to schedule a tasting with Mike. If the thought of tasting with the owner and winemaker conjures up images of sitting around a white tablecloth with a stuffy, old, self-important, elitist then you've got the wrong guy. Mike is committed to one thing only when it comes to Relic, and it is not his ego - it is making great wine. When tasting with Mike his passion and enthusiasm for wine are apparent, and his laid back demeanor and affable personality will immediately put you at ease. Currently, he tastes by appointment only at Behrens and Hitchcock, which is at the top of Spring Mountain on the Napa/Sonoma county line. Try to schedule back to back tastings with Relic and B&H, but plan on either spitting or having a designated driver. Spring Mtn. Road is narrow and steep with numerous tight curves.

Before becoming a winemaker, Mike was a sommelier at Primitivo in Colorado Springs. I sat down with him for a brief, virtual interview earlier this week to learn a bit more.

How did you become interested in wine?
I was first introduced to quality wine in college when a friend told me about a wine sale at the local wine shop. We were on a budget, so this was pertinent. I became entranced by a particular bottle of Ridge Zinfandel from Geyserville, and my life has never been the same!

What was your first winemaking gig?
After an ill-fated trip to learn how to make wine in the Cotes Du Rhone in Cairanne, I moved to Napa Valley and started working for Behrens and Hitchcock. I was the Assistant winemaker from 2000-2002. I was hired as the Winemaker for Realm Cellars in 2002.

How did you become involved with Behrens & Hitchcock?
A friend I met at a local wine shop my second day in Napa Valley told me to apply to work harvest at a GREAT winery, not just a good winery, so I called Les, met him in my loaded-down, dented 1988 VW at his winery. He jokes that he took one look at my beat-up car and hired me on the spot, which is more or less true.

Relic's motto is "Modern wines the old way." What is it about using primitive winemaking techniques that compels you to do so?
Making wine the old way, I have a chance to experience the miracle of winemaking - the sense of working with nature and looking through the "magnifying glass" to taste the communion of earth and human endeavor. You could call this terroir. As soon as I start to make a wine simply to sell, the miracle has vanished. By taking the risks that are inherent in "the old way," the wines are not simply products, but expressions of something else entirely. Something ancient.

What is your favorite varietal to work with?
My favorite varietal to work with is Syrah! It can be made so many different ways, with dramatically different results. It is a fantastic paintbrush.

Outside of the B&H umbrella, what is your favorite wine?
Today that would be a 2002 Joseph Roty Mazy-Chambertin enjoyed recently,because it had the modernity of CA Pinot Noir, but with a fantastic focus that I just have not seen in CA. My mind will probably change tomorrow!

What is your favorite appellation outside of California?
Tough question! My favorite appellation outside of the US is probably one of the following depending on the day: Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Chevalier-Montrachet, Chambertin-Clos-du-Beze, or Cote-Rotie.
What is Relic's production?
Relic's 2006 production will be around 750 cases. We may grow to about 1500 cases eventually, but not anytime soon.

Where can readers find Relic wines?
People can buy Relic Wines directly from us via our mailing list! But there are also great restaurants in NY, Las Vegas, and HI that have our wines. Look for Union Square Café in NY and Alec's at the Wynn in Vegas.

Producer: Relic Wines
Wine: 2004 Alder Springs Syrah, Mendecino County
Winemaker: Mike Hirby
Estimated Cost: $54

Tasting Notes: A huge wine. Deep purple to the rim. Notes of white pepper, plum, blueberry, raspberry, smoke and game with grippy tannins. Finish goes on and on. Still very young. Some may find the tannins to be too much at this point, but they will mellow with a little bit of time in the cellar. I have had very few California Syrahs which are its equal. 93 points

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